Supreme Court was asked Aug. 11 to consider whether a fifth-grade
student’s religious expression on a classroom project can be considered
“offensive” and subject to censorship by school officials.
2003, Joel Curry, then 11, made candy cane-style Christmas ornaments with a
note that school officials considered “religious literature.” The
note attached to the ornaments, titled “The Meaning of the Candy
Cane,” referred to Jesus six times and God twice.
copied the message from an ornament at a Christian bookstore, is now a rising
sophomore at Heritage High School in Saginaw, Mich.
unfortunate it has to be pushed this far,” said his father, Paul Curry.
“When children step out in the world, they have to deal with different
faiths and religions. It’s a good way for teachers to educate students as long
as no one is proselytizing or pushing it down someone’s throat.”
At the time,
the boy made the ornaments as part of a classroom project in which students
develop and “sell” products. School officials told the youngster to
remove the message, even though he received an A on the assignment.
a lawsuit against the Saginaw School District and the school’s principal in
2004, arguing that school officials violated the boy’s right to equal
protection because students previously had been allowed to sell
In 2005, a
federal judge ruled in favor of the boy, but a three-judge panel for the 6th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that decision.
The new suit
seeks reimbursement of legal fees and clarification of the district’s policy on
“Penalizing Christian students for expressing their beliefs in the
classroom is unacceptable under the Constitution,” said Jeff Shafer, the
senior legal counsel with the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, which
petitioned the high court to hear the case.
Amendment exists to protect private speakers, not to enable religious discrimination
by government officials. The court of appeals’ unprecedented classification of
student religious speech as an `offense’ worthy of censorship should be